from the world's big
In a world of autonomous vehicles, this is why we'll need more public transport than ever
Combined with high-capacity public transport, AVs could remove 9 out of every 10 cars in a mid-sized European city.
The media is fascinated by autonomous vehicles (AVs), in particular their safety and when or if they will arrive en masse.
A bigger and more important question is how AVs will work together as fleets and whether they work with public transport to move more people with fewer vehicles to solve our urban congestion and pollution challenges.
There is growing consensus that while personal electric AVs may improve air quality, they will only make traffic worse in cities, because replacing private autos one-for-one will not address congestion; and people may be so comfortable in their AV pods that they won't mind sitting in traffic for hours. For the latter reason, researchers at ETH Zurich have suggested that cities prohibit the use of personal AVs.
What is crucial is that AVs are electric, shared and work with public transport; and that cities invest in the infrastructure and technology necessary to support a connected, multi-modal transit network that includes shared electric AVs that can replace or augment less efficient traditional bus lines.
The city as app store
Ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft are adding public transit to their apps to help people plan door-to-door trips, becoming Mobility as a Service (MaaS) aggregators. But this is backwards – public transit apps should add Uber and Lyft and the robotaxis of the future into their marketplaces. "There's nothing precluding commercial MaaS operators from favouring their own solutions; public transportation could very well be sidelined," urban planners at San Francisco's SPUR have warned.
Los Angeles Department of Transportation General Manager Saleta Reynolds has put it this way: cities should act like "app stores" for mobility services. "The way Google and Apple invite innovation on their platforms is that they have terms and services that the companies agree to and then they can sell their products in the app store," she said at last year's CoMotion LA event. "As soon as they violate those terms and conditions, they are out of the app store."
This approach may rankle some who hope that electric AVs will replace what they see as inefficient, subsidised public transport with profitable, private alternatives. Though people often complain that public transportation loses money and is a drag on government budgets, looking at it as for-profit business misses much of the value public transport brings to communities and overlooks the costs of auto-centric mobility.
The benefits of public transit
The capital and operational costs associated with public transit should be viewed as an investment in economic development rather than a simple business cost. The Union Internationale des Transports Publics (UITP), the world's largest association of public transportation agencies, points out that "investment in public transport sparks a chain reaction in economic activity up to three or four times the initial investment".
It is important to remember that transportation, public or private, is rarely an end in itself. It is a means to another goal, for individuals to get to work, for example, and for employers to have wider access to workers. The benefits of accessible public transportation are widespread, according to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA):
- Every dollar invested in public transit generates $4 in economic returns;
- Every $10 million in capital investment in public transportation yields $30 million in increased business;
- Every $10 million in operating investment yields $32 million in increased business.
In the US, households living in auto-dependent locations spend as much as 25% of their income on transportation. A car that breaks down can mean the loss of a job. Reliable public transit lowers the cost of living for people with easy access to it, saving users more than $10,000 per year.
Costs of auto-centric cities
The UITP also points out that "while large-scale public transport investment projects are undoubtedly expensive, they are actually significantly less expensive than the direct cost of congestion, which can seriously harm the cities' competitiveness, affecting travel time reliability and business productivity."
Let's look at some of the negative economic and social impacts of private autos and congestion and pollution in cities:
- 1.25 million deaths and 20-50 million injuries from auto accidents each year (mostly due to human error) costing $518 billion globally or 1-2% of GDP for most nations;
- Some 385,000 people die prematurely each year from air pollution caused by vehicle emissions;
- Lack of public transportation is a major obstacle to employment in many regions – Europe already spends 1.4% of GDP on unemployment benefits;
- Commuters spend 100-200 hours per year in traffic, that's as much as five 40-hour weeks of lost productivity.
Will AVs help or hurt cities?
Multiple studies have been published sowing the seeds of doubt about the ability of AVs to improve congestion. University of California at Santa Cruz researcher Adam Millard-Ball studied traffic in San Francisco and found that AVs could double traffic because it will be far less expensive for vehicles to cruise or return home than to park in the city centre. Researchers at ETH Zurich and the University of Sydney came to similar conclusions.
Many point to the impact that ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft have had on congestion and pollution as negative examples of what private AVs could do to cities. While promising to reduce traffic and emissions, the services are responsible for 5.7 billion miles added to US city streets, for example, and travel 2.8 miles empty for every mile that they carry a passenger. Most of those miles are used by people that otherwise would have used public transport.
A shared future
At the same time, research shows that shared electric AVs could reduce traffic and ride times. Integration with public transport is critical to achieving these benefits. Shared AVs "combined with high-capacity public transport could remove 9 out of every 10 cars in a mid-sized European city," according to the International Transport Forum (ITU). The corresponding reduction in traffic could reduce the time taken by these shared vehicles to complete all trips by as much as 30%.
Making cities work
More than 50% of the world's population live in major metropolitan areas and more people are coming: by 2050, that number is expected to near 70% percent. These cities are the economic engines of the world. According to the consulting firm McKinsey, "Six hundred cities – the City 600 – are projected to generate more than 60% of global growth to 2025."
Cities are already short on roads and housing. In order to accommodate growth and support business and commerce, urban transportation will need to get smarter. New public and private transportation services including autonomous ones can play an important role in enabling smarter mobility but getting there will require more investment in urban transit, not less. In addition to reducing congestion, the ITU found that a combined shared AV/high-capacity public transport network can reduce off-street parking needs by 80%, "generating new opportunities for alternative uses of this valuable space."
If cities are to serve as an app store for new mobility services, they will need the support of corresponding technology platforms that enable public and private operators to work together. "There is no reason why current public transport operators or taxi companies could not take an active role in delivering these services," ITU's report says. "Governance of transport services, including concession rules and arrangements, will have to adapt." This will no doubt include limiting the number of AV services that can be operated to balance supply and demand and to avoid the overloading of vehicles seen with today's peer-to-peer ride-hailing services.
Public transportation has a mandate that private companies don't: to make safe, affordable transit available to all residents regardless of age, income, ability and location. Cities will need leverage to enforce policies that serve all stakeholders so that all can thrive. While public transit operators may never turn a profit in the traditional sense that we use to evaluate private businesses, the direct and indirect economic benefits that their services deliver to residents and businesses are far greater than the capital and operational costs involved. AVs and services will need to be a part of the mix public transport offers becoming, as the ITU notes, "a new form of low capacity, high quality public transport."
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Higher education faces challenges that are unlike any other industry. What path will ASU, and universities like ASU, take in a post-COVID world?
- Everywhere you turn, the idea that coronavirus has brought on a "new normal" is present and true. But for higher education, COVID-19 exposes a long list of pernicious old problems more than it presents new problems.
- It was widely known, yet ignored, that digital instruction must be embraced. When combined with traditional, in-person teaching, it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale.
- COVID-19 has forced institutions to understand that far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted.
What conditions of the new normal were already appreciated widely?<p>First, we understand that higher education is unique among industries. Some industries are governed by markets. Others are run by governments. Most operate under the influence of both markets and governments. And then there's higher education. Higher education as an "industry" involves public, private, and for-profit universities operating at small, medium, large, and now massive scales. Some higher education industry actors are intense specialists; others are adept generalists. Some are fantastically wealthy; others are tragically poor. Some are embedded in large cities; others are carefully situated near farms and frontiers.</p> <p>These differences demonstrate just some of the complexities that shape higher education. Still, we understand that change in the industry is underway, and we must be active in directing it. Yet because of higher education's unique (and sometimes vexing) operational and structural conditions, many of the lessons from change management and the science of industrial transformation are only applicable in limited or highly modified ways. For evidence of this, one can look at various perspectives, including those that we have offered, on such topics as <a href="https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/blogs/rethinking-higher-education/lessons-disruption" target="_blank">disruption</a>, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/20/education/learning/education-technology.html" target="_blank">technology management</a>, and so-called "<a href="https://www.insidehighered.com/sites/default/server_files/media/Excerpt_IHESpecialReport_Growing-Role-of-Mergers-in-Higher-Ed.pdf" target="_blank">mergers and acquisitions</a>" in higher education. In each of these spaces, the "market forces" and "market rules" for higher education are different than they are in business, or even in government. This has always been the case and it is made more obvious by COVID-19.</p> <p>Second, with so much excitement about innovation in higher education, we sometimes lose sight of the fact that students are—and should remain—the core cause for innovation. Higher education's capacity to absorb new ideas is strong. But the ideas that endure are those designed to benefit students, and therefore society. This is important to remember because not all innovations are designed with students in mind. The recent history of innovation in higher education includes several cautionary tales of what can happen when institutional interests—or worse, <a href="https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/02/09/apollos-new-owners-seek-fresh-start-beleaguered-company" target="_blank">shareholder</a> interests—are placed above student well-being.</p>
Photo: Getty Images<p>Third, it is abundantly apparent that universities must leverage technology to increase educational quality and access. The rapid shift to delivering an education that complies with social distancing guidelines speaks volumes about the adaptability of higher education institutions, but this transition has also posed unique difficulties for colleges and universities that had been slow to adopt digital education. The last decade has shown that online education, implemented effectively, can meet or even surpass the quality of in-person <a href="https://link-springer-com.ezproxy1.lib.asu.edu/article/10.1007/s10639-019-10027-z" target="_blank">instruction</a>.</p><p>Digital instruction, broadly defined, leverages online capabilities and integrates adaptive learning methodologies, predictive analytics, and innovations in instructional design to enable increased student engagement, personalized learning experiences, and improved learning outcomes. The ability of these technologies to transcend geographic barriers and to shrink the marginal cost of educating additional students makes them essential for delivering education at scale.</p><p>As a bonus, and it is no small thing given that they are the core cause for innovation, students embrace and enjoy digital instruction. It is their preference to learn in a format that leverages technology. This should not be a surprise; it is now how we live in all facets of life.</p><p>Still, we have only barely begun to conceive of the impact digital education will have. For example, emerging virtual and augmented reality technologies that facilitate interactive, hands-on learning will transform the way that learners acquire and apply new knowledge. Technology-enabled learning cannot replace the traditional college experience or ensure the survival of any specific college, but it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale. This has always been the case, and it is made more obvious by COVID-19.</p>
What conditions of the new normal were emerging suspicions?<p>Our collective thinking about the role of institutional or university-to-university collaboration and networking has benefitted from a new clarity in light of COVID-19. We now recognize more than ever that colleges and universities must work together to ensure that the American higher education system is resilient and sufficiently robust to meet the needs of students and their families.</p> <p>In recent weeks, various commentators have suggested that higher education will face a wave of institutional <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/scott-galloway-predicts-colleges-will-close-due-to-pandemic-2020-5" target="_blank">closures</a> and consolidations and that large institutions with significant online instruction capacity will become dominant.</p> <p>While ASU is the largest public university in the United States by enrollment and among the most well-equipped in online education, we strongly oppose "let them fail" mindsets. The strength of American higher education relies on its institutional diversity, and on the ability of colleges and universities to meet the needs of their local communities and educate local students. The needs of learners are highly individualized, demanding a wide range of options to accommodate the aspirations and learning styles of every kind of student. Education will become less relevant and meaningful to students, and less responsive to local needs, if institutions of higher learning are allowed to fail. </p> <p>Preventing this outcome demands that colleges and universities work together to establish greater capacity for remote, distributed education. This will help institutions with fewer resources adapt to our new normal and continue to fulfill their mission of serving students, their families, and their communities. Many had suspected that collaboration and networking were preferable over letting vulnerable colleges fail. COVID-19's new normal seems to be confirming this.</p>
President Barack Obama delivers the commencement address during the Arizona State University graduation ceremony at Sun Devil Stadium May 13, 2009 in Tempe, Arizona. Over 65,000 people attended the graduation.
Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images<p>A second condition of the new normal that many had suspected to be true in recent years is the limited role that any one university or type of university can play as an exemplar to universities more broadly. For decades, the evolution of higher education has been shaped by the widespread imitation of a small number of elite universities. Most public research universities could benefit from replicating Berkeley or Michigan. Most small private colleges did well by replicating Williams or Swarthmore. And all universities paid close attention to Harvard, Princeton, MIT, Stanford, and Yale. It is not an exaggeration to say that the logic of replication has guided the evolution of higher education for centuries, both in the US and abroad.</p><p>Only recently have we been able to move beyond replication to new strategies of change, and COVID-19 has confirmed the legitimacy of doing so. For example, cases such as <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2020/03/10/harvard-moves-classes-online-advises-students-stay-home-after-spring-break-response-covid-19/" target="_blank">Harvard's</a> eviction of students over the course of less than one week or <a href="https://www.nhregister.com/news/coronavirus/article/Mayor-New-Haven-asks-for-coronavirus-help-Yale-15162606.php" target="_blank">Yale's apparent reluctance</a> to work with the city of New Haven, highlight that even higher education's legacy gold standards have limits and weaknesses. We are hopeful that the new normal will include a more active and earnest recognition that we need many types of universities. We think the new normal invites us to rethink the very nature of "gold standards" for higher education.</p>
A graduate student protests MIT's rejection of some evacuation exemption requests.
Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images<p>Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we had started to suspect and now understand that America's colleges and universities are among the many institutions of democracy and civil society that are, by their very design, incapable of being sufficiently responsive to the full spectrum of modern challenges and opportunities they face. Far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted. And without new designs, we can expect postsecondary success for these same students to be as elusive in the new normal, as it was in the <a href="http://pellinstitute.org/indicators/reports_2019.shtml" target="_blank">old normal</a>. This is not just because some universities fail to sufficiently recognize and engage the promise of diversity, this is because few universities have been designed from the outset to effectively serve the unique needs of lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color.</p>
Where can the new normal take us?<p>As colleges and universities face the difficult realities of adapting to COVID-19, they also face an opportunity to rethink their operations and designs in order to respond to social needs with greater agility, adopt technology that enables education to be delivered at scale, and collaborate with each other in order to maintain the dynamism and resilience of the American higher education system.</p> <p>COVID-19 raises questions about the relevance, the quality, and the accessibility of higher education—and these are the same challenges higher education has been grappling with for years. </p> <p>ASU has been able to rapidly adapt to the present circumstances because we have spent nearly two decades not just anticipating but <em>driving</em> innovation in higher education. We have adopted a <a href="https://www.asu.edu/about/charter-mission-and-values" target="_blank">charter</a> that formalizes our definition of success in terms of "who we include and how they succeed" rather than "<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/10/17/forget-varsity-blues-madness-lets-talk-about-students-who-cant-afford-college/" target="_blank">who we exclude</a>." We adopted an entrepreneurial <a href="https://president.asu.edu/read/higher-logic" target="_blank">operating model</a> that moves at the speed of technological and social change. We have launched initiatives such as <a href="https://www.instride.com/how-it-works/" target="_blank">InStride</a>, a platform for delivering continuing education to learners already in the workforce. We developed our own robust technological capabilities in ASU <a href="https://edplus.asu.edu/" target="_blank">EdPlus</a>, a hub for research and development in digital learning that, even before the current crisis, allowed us to serve more than 45,000 fully online students. We have also created partnerships with other forward-thinking institutions in order to mutually strengthen our capabilities for educational accessibility and quality; this includes our role in co-founding the <a href="https://theuia.org/" target="_blank">University Innovation Alliance</a>, a consortium of 11 public research universities that share data and resources to serve students at scale. </p> <p>For ASU, and universities like ASU, the "new normal" of a post-COVID world looks surprisingly like the world we already knew was necessary. Our record breaking summer 2020 <a href="https://asunow.asu.edu/20200519-sun-devil-life-summer-enrollment-sets-asu-record" target="_blank">enrollment</a> speaks to this. What COVID demonstrates is that we were already headed in the right direction and necessitates that we continue forward with new intensity and, we hope, with more partners. In fact, rather than "new normal" we might just say, it's "go time." </p>
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